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Mental Health Awareness Month: Let's Talk About K-12 Students

By Quincy Wise

Mental health is something that needs to be taken seriously at all ages. There is no “one size fits all” motto on how to maintain one’s mental health. For many, taking a nice walk out in the park on a sunny day is a great way to boost their mood. For others, a moonlight stroll around a lake does the trick. Some need advice from family and friends to guide them toward better mental wellness, while others choose to partake in a more solitary journey.

This year, I got the amazing opportunity to work as a school social work intern. It is common, especially in recent times, for students in higher education to express their experiences with depression, anxiety, stress, and burnout due to their workload. However, the massive load experienced by K-12 students is less talked about.

I noticed the massive influx of students who were being referred in the spring, especially during the time of state testing. I learned that teachers should receive additional assistance in supporting their students as one teacher in a class of 20 can be a daunting experience.

As adults, we talk about going to work, paying bills, commuting, cooking meals, and completing the mundane tasks necessary to maintain our lives. Those in university have it a little different. College students protest heaving course loads, dense final projects, complex syllabi, and unyielding professors.

K-12 students have a mix of both with less control over their lives than either. They have to go to school five days a week, have homework that has to be completed, they alone typically cannot advocate against unfair treatment by other adults, and if the lunch is unappetizing? Well, they can’t just order Uber Eats.

Unlike older adolescents and adults, anxiety and depression may present differently in children. Even though they may present different outcomes, suicidal ideation and attempts are still possible. These outcomes can be prevented by the unification of the school community. All school staff and faculty members need to work together as a team to identify signs of a struggling student, share all knowledge that is available, and intervene as soon as possible.

It can only help to be mentally aware earlier on!

Learn more about how we train school staff, parents, and principals to identify the signs in students at

Quincy Wise, I'RAISE school social work intern, is a first-year school social work student at Columbia University’s School of Social Work. Born and raised in Harlem, NYC, he graduated from the City College of New York with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, minoring in English. Quincy says, “I love this city and want to make a difference in it and the world for the better of all people, no matter of race, religion, or creed.”

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